Chapter 6: Promise

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Three days after the incident with Nico, we decide to take another trip to Menorca. This time we meet at the bar, we all feel a little down without Fátima there. Marina, Juan, Diego, and I are sharing some tapas.

"Damn, some guys from class told me what happened with Nico. Juan, man, you outdid yourself. Great job!" says Marina.

"Go on, say that again, Marina. It might have been a momentary liberation, but I swear, if I'd thought about it twice, I never would have done it. I'm scared of the payback, we all know what they're capable of, the humiliation. And I'm a chicken."

"I don't get why they always have to pick on us," I interrupt. "Why can't they just leave us in peace. Why do we make them so angry?"

"Because we're different," says Juan.

"Don't be so conventional, that's just a cliché. We're all different. There's more to it than that, it's not only about being different," explains Marina.

"I'm with Marina. It's as if our presence alone is enough to provoke them, it's something more than just a cliché about being a different color, nationality, orientation... It's something we don't do that bothers them," says Diego.

"And what's that?" I ask.

"We don't go to their parties," replies Diego.

"Because they don't invite us," I shoot back.

"They invited Juan," Marina teases.

We all start laughing, including Juan. He's already been through his own personal ordeal with the monarchy and, fortunately, he knows how to laugh at himself.

"Remember Plato's Allegory of the Cave?" Diego


"Yeah, it's great. I spent a long time thinking about it," I add.

"I think it's kind of relevant," says Diego.

"Oh, really? Because we live in a cave without electricity and they won't let us out?" I tease


"Yeah, something like that. They see the fact that we want to see the light, to do things differently, to break out of the darkness of the cave as a challenge to their authority... because, deep down, it's what they want too, but they don't dare to do it. The just keep going round in circles doing the same old boring stuff."

"I totally agree, dude. It's not easy being authentic. True to yourself. Promise me if I ever stop being authentic, if I ever start acting like somebody you know deep down I'm not, you'll tell me, right?" asks Marina.

"We promise, and promise you'll tell me, too," I confirm.

Later that day, over some calamari and Spanish omelet, we make a pledge to always tell each other, even at the risk of damaging our friendship, if anybody stops being their authentic self.

Over the coming days, our classmates start to notice Fátima's absence. Mónica asks after her and we tell her what we agreed in our plan: that she can't carry on studying because she's in her home country, she'll be eighteen soon and she has to get married. The news spreads like wildfire across the entire high school and the next day, everybody's asking us if we've spoken to her, how she's doing, if she wants to get married... Even Sandra and Gonzalo come over to us. With a haughty look and a reproachful tone, Sandra asks us:

"Is it true Fátima's gone to Morocco and can't keep studying because she's going to get married?"

"Yes, it's true. She's not allowed to come back," says Juan.

"Damn. Your her friends, aren't you going to do anything?" she scolds us.

"We talk to her a lot and we send her our notes," I say.

Sandra turns her nose up even more, her tone of voice becomes more and more recriminatory, her mouth open wide to emphasize her pronunciation. She adds a jerky head movement from side to side.

"Are you really not going to fight for her"—her head jerks to the left—"rights?"

Her head movements and the way she rolls her Rs distract me. I don't hear what she asks and I say the first thing that comes into my head:

"No, she doesn't want to study Human Rights."

"I'm sure. If she's not even allowed to finish high school I doubt she's going to study Human Rights," says Gonzalo in a sarcastic tone, "but that wasn't the question."

"Damn it, guys, we have to do something to defend her rights, because it seems like they don't give a shit," declares Sandra in a loud voice.

Other members of the class come over to join the conversation.

"That's not true. Of course we care, a lot. She's our friend," I try to explain.

"If you care so much, why are you fucking sitting there doing nothing?"

"We are doing something. We talk to her every day and..."

"So why don't you organize a protest in defense of human rights here at school? Fuck, you can't do anything yourselves."

"We send her our notes every day..."

But they aren't even listening to what I say, they start talking among themselves and I only catch a few comments:

"We'll talk to the principal."

"Respect for rights, above all."

"Good for her."


"What dumbasses."

I feel more and more distant from what they're saying. They're talking about Fátima, my friend Fátima, who I've shared so much with and know so well. I'm the only one in the class who's been to her house, the only one who's had dinner with her family, the only one who's been to the mosque with her.

I look at the members of the monarchy. They seem so ridiculous to me. Suddenly they're interested in one of us, wanting to fight for her cause, defend her rights... and, of course, get their medals for heroism. Anyway. I leave the classroom and head home, quietly proud of myself.

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